From Publishers Weekly
Short story writer, novelist and memoirist Gordon honors her late mother, Anne. Though she died in 2002, Anne was gradually lost to senile dementia years before, stunting Gordon's grief. Now, she explains, I write about her because I am a writer and it's the only way that I can mourn her. Anne emerges as the progeny of her era—a daughter of working-class Catholic immigrants, a Great Depression survivor plagued by the horror of waste, a stalwart woman who provided for a long succession of family members that couldn't (or sometimes wouldn't) support themselves. For all her formidable strength, Anne was vulnerable—her body misshapen by polio, her mind tormented by alcoholism and despair, her tenderness of emotion only conveyed in song. Fans of Gordon's work will recognize familiar conflicts in the people who shaped Anne's life: sisters, friends, priests—men who served as ancillary husbands through her widowhood. As the title suggests, Gordon realizes that understanding Anne wholly is not easily done from any one stance, and so she opts to encircle her, weaving between the realms of memoir and biography. The result is a moving, affecting work on the tug-of-war between mother and daughter, between women and the changing world around them. (Aug.)
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"I had hoped to tell not only the story of my mother's life," writes Mary Gordon, "but a larger story, a story that had implications beyond her immediate biography." While highly personal, Gordon successfully places her mother's life in the context of immigration, war, working-class Catholicism, and economic depression. But critics disagree just how effectively-or compassionately-Gordon captures her mother. Part of the disagreement has to do with what some reviewers describe as Gordon's lack of empathy toward Anna's deformity and ugly final days, her jaded perspective, and the episodic, circular narration. For patient readers, however, Gordon offers a haunting, highly rewarding portrait of a complex woman.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.